When Will Ferrell appeared on Conan last month to announce he's reteaming with writer/director Adam McKay for an Anchorman sequel, it practically broke the Internet. The cult favorite did well at the box office, but not so much overseas, where the wacky humor and period setting didn't play well. Sequel talks began soon after the film's 2004 release, but budget concerns became a huge roadblock. McKay talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the film's long journey, and where it's going now that it's set up at Paramount Pictures.
He explained they initially didn't want to make a sequel because they had so many other ideas they wanted to work on. "And then finally, we kept hearing the question so much from fans, and we’re like, Shit, man, there’s almost something original about doing a sequel, like, can-we-do-a-sequel suddenly became an interesting challenge to us. We got our heads around on it and said, 'All right, we’ll do it.'"
This pleased then DreamWorks executive and current Paramount president Adam Goodman who, was also pushing for a followup. But then the studios looked at the numbers and wouldn't pony up enough money to cover all the salaries for the group of increasingly popular actors.
Even after the success of The Other Guys, which McKay directed and Ferrell starred in, the studio still wouldn't budge on the low-ball budget for Anchorman 2. McKay said they would have taken pay cuts, but the ones offered were too low. "For me, I’ve gotta be on it for two years, and if I’m making such-and-such money I’m losing a lot of money, and it’s hard to explain to your wife why you’re working 14 hours a day for … when you’re directing, once you’re in it you’re in it," he said. "Believe me, I’m not complaining. But at the same time, you want to make some money, even out of a sense of fairness, and it was literally like no pay, a little shot of back end. And once again, all the reps, when we went back the second time, were like, “This is horrible. You can’t do this.” So we gave up."
Then, about three months ago, when McKay and Ferrell had switched gears and were planning to make a sequel to Step Brothers, they decided to make contact with Paramount one last time to see if there was any hope of another Anchorman with a better budget. They were met with good news: A film at the studio fell through, as did a project that would've starred Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. At the same time, McKay worked with the studio again while helping out on the upcoming Sacha Baron Cohen movie The Dictator and everyone enjoyed working together.
After so much back and forth regarding the budget, McKay said they came to an acceptable deal that was less than they originally wanted, but still workable. "The budget we ended up getting was $50 million. It was perfect. We wanted $60 million, they were saying $35 million, $50 million we can get it done for. We came up with a — we’re not going to get rich — but a fair little back end sweetener on it."
By way of discussing the salaries for some of the even bigger stars in the movie, McKay did say that everyone will be returning for this new installment, including Christina Applegate. "We haven’t written it yet, but we have an idea for her that we think is pretty cool. So tentatively right now she’s in. But obviously we kind of have to let it be what it’s gonna be, we don’t want to handcuff ourselves, but we love Applegate, so any chance to work with her is always fun. So, yeah, that’s it. The last couple weeks we’ve been sitting down and banging out the story and putting it together."
He then said that he will be holing up for a month or two starting next week to get the first draft of the script together with an eye toward a January or February start date.